U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), today outlined the Senate Republicans’ agenda for the 115th Congress: growing the economy, creating jobs, increasing wages, and lifting the burdens the Obama administration placed on the American people. Thune highlighted the importance of one of the first items on the agenda, which is to confirm a justice to the Supreme Court who has the proper judicial temperament to uphold the law and Constitution.
Thune’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. President, every year around this time, House and Senate Republicans get together for a retreat to share ideas and develop our action plan for the year.
“Last week, we gathered in Philadelphia for this year’s retreat, and we had a really productive session.
“All of us came back energized and ready to achieve big things for the American people.
“Mr. President, in November, the American people elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican president.
“That was a tremendous show of trust, and Republicans know it.
“And we’re committed to living up to that trust by delivering on the promises we’ve made.
“The last few years have been tough for American workers.
“Job creation has been sluggish.
“Wages have been stagnant.
“Economic growth has lagged far behind the pace of other recoveries.
“And opportunities for workers have been few and far between.
“It’s no surprise that so many hardworking Americans feel like they’ve been left behind.
“To the millions of American workers discouraged by the past eight years, I want to say this:
“We hear you.
“Republicans hear you.
“And we are going to act.
“Republicans have outlined an agenda focused on growing our economy, creating jobs, increasing wages, and lifting the burdens the Obama administration placed on the American people.
“One big issue we will tackle this year is repealing and replacing Obamacare.
“Seven years ago, Obamacare was sold to the American people with a lot of promises.
“The law was going to reduce premiums for families.
“It was going to fix the problems with our health care system – without hurting anyone who was happy with her health coverage.
“If you like your health plan, you’ll be able to keep it, people were told.
“If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep him.
“Well, Mr. President, as everyone knows, every one of these promises was broken.
“Premiums for families continued to rise.
“Millions of Americans lost health care plans they liked.
“Americans regularly discovered that they couldn’t keep their doctors – and that their choice of a replacement was often limited.
“But Mr. President, these broken promises were just the tip of the iceberg.
“The law hasn’t just failed to live up to its promises.
“It’s actively collapsing, and the status quo is unsustainable.
“Premiums on the exchanges are soaring.
“Deductibles regularly run into the thousands of dollars.
“For 2017, the average deductible for a bronze-level Obamacare plan is rising from $5,731 to $6,092.
“With deductibles like that, it’s no wonder that some Americans can’t afford to actually use their Obamacare insurance.
“And Mr. President, the problems on the exchanges aren’t limited to soaring costs.
“Insurers are pulling out of the exchanges right and left, and health care choices are rapidly dwindling.
“Narrow provider networks are the order of the day.
“And one-third of American counties have just one choice of health insurer on their exchange.
“This is not the health care reform the American people were looking for.
“Republicans are committed to replacing Obamacare with real health care reform that focuses on personalized, patient-centered care.
“One massive problem with Obamacare is the fact that it puts Washington in charge of health care decisions that should be made at a much lower level.
“Any Obamacare reform that Republicans pass will focus on fixing this.
“We’re going to move control from Washington and give it back to states and to individuals.
“Health care issues don’t have one-size-fits-all solutions.
“It’s time to stop acting like they do.
“States should have the power to innovate and embrace health care solutions that work for the individuals and employers in their state.
“And individuals should be able to make health care decisions in consultation with their doctors, not with Washington.
“Another thing we’re going to focus on is breaking down the Obamacare barriers that have artificially restricted choice.
“As I said earlier, Obamacare has defaulted to a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to health care.
“And that means many Americans have found themselves paying for health care that they don’t need or want.
“We need much more flexibility in insurance plans.
“A thriving health care system would offer a wide variety of choices that would allow Americans to pick a plan tailored to their needs.
“We also need to give Americans the tools to better manage their health care and control costs.
“And of course, any reform plan has to make sure that employers have the tools they need to provide employees with affordable health coverage.
“Another priority for the Republican-led Congress will be regulatory reform.
“While some government regulations are necessary, every administration has to remember that regulations have consequences.
“The more resources individuals and businesses spend complying with regulations, the less they have available to focus on the growth and innovation that drive our economy and create new opportunities for workers.
“Unfortunately, the Obama administration chose to spend the past eight years loading employers with burdensome regulations.
“According to the American Action Forum, the Obama administration was responsible for implementing more than 675 major regulations that cost the economy more than $800 billion.
“Given those numbers, it’s no surprise that the Obama economy left businesses with few resources to dedicate to growing and creating jobs.
“Repealing burdensome regulations is one of the most important things we can do to get our economy healthy again.
“And it’s going to be a Republican priority.
“Mr. President, another big thing we can do to make America competitive again is comprehensive tax reform.
“And that will also be a Republican priority this year.
“Right now, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that our economy will grow by an average of just 2 percent over the next 10 years.
“If we can increase that growth by just 1 percent, we would see average incomes rise by $4,200.
“We would see 1.2 million more jobs.
“And we would see much faster increases in the standard of living.
“One of the most effective ways to achieve that kind of growth is to reform our tax code.
“Our current tax code is costly, complex, and frequently unfair.
“Some corporations benefit from special rules, deductions, and credits, while others are forced to pay the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.
“More and more, American companies are focusing their business operations overseas because the tax situation is so much better abroad.
“And that means that American jobs are going overseas with them.
“Instead of pushing employers out of the country, we should bring our nation’s tax rates in line with those of other countries to keep more jobs here in the United States.
“And we should make our whole tax code flatter, fairer, and less complex.
“Our tax code should work for all taxpayers, not just a privileged few.
“A simpler, flatter, and fairer tax code will make U.S. businesses more competitive in the global economy.
“It will help businesses create new, good-paying jobs for American workers.
“And it will jump-start our economy and ensure long-term economic growth.
“Finally, Mr. President, Republicans in the Senate have another important trust to uphold this year – confirming a new Supreme Court justice.
“We’re committed to confirming a well-qualified nominee with the right temperament to sit on the court and a proper understanding of the role of the court in our country.
“Supreme Court justices are umpires.
“They call the balls and strikes.
“They don’t write the rules of the game.
“The job of a Supreme Court justice is to interpret the law and the Constitution – not rewrite the law based on his or her personal opinions.
“Democrats have spent a lot of time talking about the need for nine justices on the Supreme Court.
“Republicans trust that they will follow through on their statements by working with us to confirm the president’s nominee.
“Mr. President, to every American who voted for change in November, to every American frustrated with a sluggish economy and a lack of opportunity, I want to say again:
“We hear you.
“Republicans hear you.
“And we are not going to let you down.
“We will spend the 115th Congress fighting for your priorities.
“And we will not rest until every American has access to a future of security, hope, and opportunity.”